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The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind Paperback – October 19, 1995

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Editorial Reviews Review

The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, by Mark Noll, is "an epistle from a wounded lover." Noll loves God and he loves academics, but he is wounded because many of his colleagues deny the possibility of maintaining the integrity of both loves. Noll's epistle is a memoir, a historical study, and a wide-ranging piece of cultural criticism that argues, "The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind." Noll considers the effects of evangelical intellectual atrophy on American politics, science, and the arts, and he ultimately offers wise and practical advice for readers who want to explore the full intellectual implications of the incarnation of Christ. --Michael Joseph Gross

From Publishers Weekly

Claiming that "the scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind," historian Noll sets out to trace the reasons for what he sees as the great divorce between intellect and piety in North American Evangelical Christianity. In a breathtaking panorama of evangelical history from the Great Awakenings to the present, Noll shows that early Evangelicals like Jonathan Edwards embraced the use of reason as an expression of faith in the Creator of the natural world. The advent of Fundamentalism and Pentecostalism, Noll contends, with their emphases on dispensationalism and other-worldliness, fostered anti-intellectualism. Since politics and science, in the form of the religious right and creationism, have been the secular arenas in which the Evangelical mind has most publicly expressed itself, Noll focuses on them to explore ways in which the mindlessness "scandal" has created a lack of adequate Christian thinking about the world. Finally, Noll is hopeful that the work of contemporary Evangelical scholars will recover a respect for intellect. Required reading for those seeking to understand the often peculiar relationship between Evangelical religion and secular culture, this is a brilliant study by--yes--a first-rate Evangelical mind.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 274 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (October 19, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802841805
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802841803
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #86,454 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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176 of 187 people found the following review helpful By Robert Knetsch on November 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
Mark Noll has written a most scathing review of the evangelical mind. His opening sentenace says it all: "The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is no evangelical mind". True, harsh words, but Noll was able to put into words so much of what bothers me about evangelical Christianity. From creationism to dispensationalism I have been frustrated by the lack of deep thinking within Christian circles and often I find myself branded as a cynic for asking too many questions.
The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind does not quite drift into the territory of criticizing BEING an evangelical, only that somewhere along the way, we have let ourselves be co-opted by thinking patterns that stifle good thought processes. Noll deftly traces some of the history and development of the evangelical mind thorough the past few hundred years.
I would say that this book changed my life. It helped me to realize much of what bothers me about evangelicalism. It ALMOST made me want to give it up. And some may say that this is the danger of the book. However, I think that Noll does not want us to go that far; he honestly described the problems and begins to offer a solution to the way that we have forgotten how to love God with our minds.
I commend this to all who want to think honestly about their faith and not be afraid to be shaken.
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121 of 132 people found the following review helpful By Stephen M. Bainbridge on December 31, 2000
Format: Paperback
Mark Noll is a chaired professor of "christian thought," at Wheaton College - one of the great Evangelical liberal arts colleges, as well as being one of the leading church historians of our time. Noll is also one of the leading public intellectuals within the Evangelical movement. (By public intellectual, I mean an academic whose is grounded in rigorous scholarship but who also writes - at a high level - for the general public. Stephen Carter of Yale is another good example of a Christian public intellectual.)
Evangelicals are all too often typecast as hillbillies who neither read nor think. Like most stereotypes, there is a grain of truth to the characterization - where there is smoke there is usually fire. In the "Scandal of the Evangelical Mind," Noll issues a wake-up call for a renewed commitment to the life of the mind on the part of Evangelicals. Noll begins by persuasively demonstrating the existence of an intellectual deficit among Evangelicals. In contrast to the Catholic-leaning journals like First Things or the New Oxford review, there is no real Evangelical journal of public thought. There are few scholarly journals focusing on Evangelical perspectives. Evangelical colleges emphasize teaching at the expense of scholarly research, despite decades of proof that the good teaching and good scholarship goes hand in hand.
Noll then traces the historical roots of this scandal, showing that there was a time when Evangelicals dominated top institutions of learning. What caused the decline? In what must surely be the most controversial portion of the book, Noll lays the blame on an anti-intellectual strain of populist fundamentalism. As someone who grew up with many working class fundamentalist relatives, I am more sympathetic towards that world view than is Noll.
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56 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Scamp Lumm on July 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
"that there is not much of an evangelical mind." That is the first sentence of this book by Mark Noll who is an evangelical himself, professor at Wheaton College, alma mater of Billy and Ruth Bell Graham.
So what's the problem, Mark Noll asks? Doesn't Christ command us to love Him with all our mind, and how have evangelicals in this country failed in this respect? That's the aim of Noll in this book to show the historical reasons for that failure but also to show that there is hope and signs that some evangelicals are back on the right track. I think his main point is that research is key to developing the mind, that Christians should venture to explore all "topics under the sun" as Solomon says, and that we can do so in a way that glorifies God without compromising basic Christian beliefs.
This author was recommended to me and others from the evangelical church I attend. I loved this book; it's one of the more substantive Jesus books that are out there. It's well-researched and thought provoking. Evangelicalism is new to me, although maybe I was one before I knew what the word meant! In the first chapter, evangelicalism is described as having "the key ingredients of: conversionism/new birth, biblicism/the bible as ultimate religious authority, activism/sharing your faith, crucicentrism/significance of Christ's saving work on the cross." Fundamentalism is not necessarily evangelicalism.
Here are some excerpts I loved:
"In each of these instances (pro-life/abortion, creationism/creation science/evolution debates), the point at issue for a historian of the intellectual life is not whether the new ideas were right or wrong.
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Tom Wadsworth on April 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
The scandal of this book is that it's almost too cerebral to read. But if you can stay with it, and plow through writing that seems intended for PhDs, the book makes some powerful points that will endure for generations.

Here's the real scandal: The people who need to read this book are not likely to buy it. And if they do, they're not likely to understand it.

The first and last chapters (1 and 9) are the easiest to read and understand, so if you get bogged down in the middle, just fast forward to the end. You'll miss some excellent points, but it's almost too much work to find them.

My background is biblical studies. Reading the book from that viewpoint, it was clear that Noll is not at home with a biblical analysis of evangelicalism. Yet, when he reflects on biblical topics (e.g., dispensationalism, Genesis, eschatology, pentecostalism, sanctification), his instincts are remarkably on target.

But these comments are too negative for a book that emancipated my thinking on several levels. I thank Noll for helping me understand why I'm so frustrated with evangelicals. But, as he concludes, "the question must remain whether evangelicalism as it has taken shape in North America contributes anything intrinsic to the life of the mind." (p. 239)

The Christian world needs more Mark Nolls. But it really needs a Mark Noll who can communicate effectively to mainstream evangelicals.
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